At TWIST, we tell our clients that there are three things a successful brand does: instill confidence, impact culture and inspire devotion. Achieving all three is a transcendent moment for a brand. It is the moment when a brand stops being seen for its products and becomes part of an individual’s identity. That type of deeply sophisticated connection with consumers can capture the type of market leadership that lasts for an entire generation.
No brand does it as well as Coke. Sure, Apple. Yes, Tesla. OK, Google. But most of the remarkable and influential brands you can name offer a product with a tangible benefit and/or they are companies whose innovations solve a problem. Think about it, there is no benefit of soda. Soda doesn’t solve a problem. Soda’s only key benefit is the way you feel about yourself when you drink it and that requires an amazing brand experience.
Those of us who are not digital natives remember (or think we remember because we watched Mad Men) the famous Hilltop Coca-Cola tv ad. That ad, with its line “I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company” at that time set the tone for a generation. That youth movement was called the “me generation” and it was all about personal development and individual growth. It was anti-establishment. And while its values were panned by mainstream polite society as selfish, it really was a movement of inclusion and unity. It was advertisers like Coca-Cola who recognized its importance and influence, and they were one of the first to take these new consumers seriously. (See the “impact culture” moment.)
We are “re-energizing and modernizing Diet Coke for a new generation of drinkers.” The Coca-Cola Co stated in a news release upon the January 10th launch of a reimagined Diet Coke line-up. New can shape, new can design and four new flavors plus the original. Coke tapped U.K.-based design shop Kenyon Weston to do the can redesign and Wieden & Kennedy, authors of “Just Do It” created the new campaign.
The new “Because I Can” campaign is a series of five fifteen second films the first starring Actress Gillian Jacobs, best known for her roles in the NBC sitcom “Community” and the Netflix romantic comedy series “Love,”. The other spots star other up and coming millennial actors. In the spot, Gillian grabs a Diet Coke from a corner store before walking along a sidewalk and offering viewers a straight-into-the-camera invitation to do what makes them happy.
What?! I’m 47, so the first time I saw this it angered me. The series of portraits of millennials with their “Whatever” attitude about life and kind of defiant lack of enthusiasm for the product they are supposed to be persuading me to purchase, really angered me. It made me want to yell at them “this is your job, take it seriously.” Then I thought more deeply about their life experience, they were raised on un-produced YouTube videos, not glossy sitcoms. They grew up with the internet so even though they are young they have been exposed to every sales pitch there is.
It makes sense that these portraits of young adults and their sleek skinny Skittle/vape flavored soft drinks are stripped down. The approach is painstakingly authentic and like them or not, these are consumers who are comfortable in their own skin. These portrayls owe their “easy on the eyes” vibe to the skilled hand of director Paul Feig, known for the TV series “Freaks and Geeks,” as well as movies including “Bridesmaids” and the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot, they are full of subtle and quiet nuance.
“Because I Can” is what Advertising Looks like in its highest form, as art.
I also have to comment on the soft, subtle and thoughtful color palettes used in styling these spots. Each product flavor is so well complemented by wardrobe, propping and set design which is just the right blend of quirk, kitsch and color.
If you employ millennials and find yourself confused, frustrated and even at times angered by them, you should watch these spots and reflect on them. This is the emerging American consumer, these are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, CEOs. They are telling us that we, as a society, have reached a moment where we feel so comfortable, provided for and confident that we can casually move from one experience to another. That we have an unlimited amount of choice and that we, as a society have evolved (from their perspective) to a moment of not heightened but lessened awareness. These guys are over it.
In fifteen seconds, the new Diet Coke campaign redefines the standards of the conversation between brand and consumer. If you plan on selling anything in the next twenty years you need to understand this or be ready to hire someone who does.
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